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Two parts cultural commentary, one part personal ranting. Serve with a side of political debate. May contain sarcasm.

Why I've Been Negative About Spain- A Personal Story
21 October 2014 @ 11:49

Last week I wrote an article called “5 facts that will completely destroy your opinion of Spain”. The title was purposely sensationalist; I’ve been reading BuzzFeed long enough to know that unless you have a provocative title, you just don’t get the clicks. I could very easily have written “5 facts that show you some negative things about Spain that you might not be aware of” but that wouldn’t have pushed up the readership by half as much.

 

The article was never intended to make people hate Spain, but rather to point out some uncomfortable truths about a country which is so often portrayed as nothing more than sun, sand and sangria.

 

I posted links to this article on Facebook and got two extremely different reactions. From people living in Spain: “yeah, that sounds about right- this just confirmed what I already know” and from travel bloggers: “How on earth could you write something like that! How could you ever be so negative about Spain?”

 

I was accused of being a liar and “letting Scousers everywhere down” (God knows what my hometown has to do with anything). I was told that I had “no right” to be so negative and biased.

 

I then had a series of people trying to prove that I was just plain wrong, especially regarding the fact that Spain is the second poorest country in the EU. People sent me rants of their personal experiences "disproving" this (no statistics provided) and several people sent me links to lists of “European Countries by GDP” on Wikipedia to show me that I’d obviously got it wrong because “look, look Kosovo is much poorer than Spain!” By this time, I’d lost faith in travel bloggers altogether and was getting sick of explaining that a low GDP does not equal poverty.

 

But what I found most surprising in all of this, apart from the people who can’t seem to understand that Europe and the European Union are not the same thing (Kosovo IS poorer than Spain, but it's not in the EU; this does NOT disprove my research), was the general anger that the article produced. Real anger. How could I ever write something so negative about a country? Maybe I broke some sort of unknown blogging law. I don’t know. But as a resident of Spain (I have the 72 documents to prove it) and as a person who, you know, has freedom of speech, I do, actually, have the right to write negative things about Spain. Especially when they’re all verified facts backed up by academic sources such as OECD reports.

 

But the question remained; why would I write such a list of negative things about Spain? Well, simply, it’s because I live here, and the negatives affect me much more than the positives. Yes Spain has better weather and nice food and friendly people. But what affects me most is the political, economic and social reality around me.

 

Recently I, and many people I know have had our salaries cut. Not just stagnated and not increased in line with inflation. Cut. This happens every day to good, honest people who work hard. I see employees’ rights disappearing with every new bill passed through parliament whilst the bankers and politicians get richer and more corrupt. (Just look at what's happening with the the Black Card thing at Caixa Madrid right now). 

 

Then there's the bike lane thing. In the past month bike lanes have been erased and innocent people fined in order to make a quick profit for the council (see previous post about a three-year-old on a tricycle being fined). Now that I’m forced to cycle in the road behind buses I no longer have the wind in my face, but rather exhaust fumes. Cycling, which used to be a simple pleasure for me, is now not only dangerous (having a bendy bus just pull out in front of you when you're cycling at full speed is terrifying) but damaging my health (if you think I’m being melodramatic try cycling directly behind a bus- it’s really not pleasant to breathe in those toxins).

 

The negatives affect me more than the positives because I’m an immigrant not an expat. Because I live in Zaragoza and not in Fuengarola. Because I’m politically aware and I’m the type of person who writes to my MP and reads OECD reports for fun. Because I can’t stand social or political apathy.

 

Many of the Travel Bloggers told me that Spain is one of their favourite countries and that I have no right to be so negative about it. But to them I say, walk a mile in my shoes, stop travelling Spain and live it. Live in a barrio with Gypsies. Work on a daily basis with university graduates who can’t construct a logical argument.  Walk along streets where healthy thirty year olds are holding cardboard signs saying that they are looking for work, can’t find it, and have no other option but to beg on the street to feed their family (there’s no such thing as Job Seekers Allowance here). Watch as a population sits idly by as it is fucked over by its government. Then tell me I can’t say negative things about my adopted country.

 

But my favourite comment was “if you’re not happy in Spain, just leave”. I had this a few times and it’s actually laughable how naïve such a comment is.

 

Not all of these apply to me, but leaving a country is never an easy decision to make. What happens if you’re in a serious relationship and one partner wants to move abroad and the other doesn’t? What happens if you have financial security in a country and wouldn’t be guaranteed this if you moved? Would you risk leaving everything behind; your career, your promotional prospects and your guaranteed income on a gamble that you might get a job elsewhere? What happens when you don’t speak the language well? When your qualifications won’t be recognised in another country?

 

Choosing where to live is never so black and white. It’s not an easy decision to make. And it’s not one I’ve taken lightly. I’m in my mid-twenties and, looking towards the long term, I have asked myself: is Spain the country where I’d like to live forever? Is this the best country for my career? Would I like to raise a family here? I’ve thought long and hard about it and the answer is no.

 

But I can’t just pack up my bags and leave on the next flight home. I’m not a traveller. I’m a resident. I’m a real life adult with responsibilities.

 

So I deleted the link from the Travel Bloggers group. I’ve learnt my lesson. There are certain people who only want to read about how great countries are. There are people who will get really angry and defensive when you show them statistics from a reliable source that go against their own preconceptions. There are people who think they have the right to tell others "to go home".

 

No one has the right to tell me “to go home”. Especially people who don’t know me. And especially, especially those who think that Europe and the European Union are the same thing.



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5 Comments


eggcup said:
20 October 2014 @ 09:28

HI Jess. Been there, got the t-shirt. Except when they rant at me to 'go home if you don't like it,' I say, 'Uh, actually I have.' I spent five years living in Spain before moving back to Wales and feel the same way as you do about Spain. And many young Spanish people feel the same. They feel they've been conned by their own Government, Junta, council etc. etc. The problem is that the corruption is so ingrained and runs through so many parts of life that so many people have their hands dirty and therefore won't make a stand. We know a 22-year old Spanish teacher who does conversation classes with our kids in Wales and he can barely mention his country without getting into a frenzy of despair and anger. He has no plans to go back there to live. He's found himself a job in the UK and is delighted and would like to bring up a family here. He just loves our British culture and aspects like the justice system which is far more accessible and effective than it is in Spain.
As you say, it is interesting how some people are so invested in the choice they made to live in Spain that they try and impose a gag on others' freedom of speech. Luckily, the team here on EoS will often publish so-called 'negative' posts on their weekly Digest (they like the majority to be positive though), so people can then have more confidence that this site isn't just an advertising scam.
To sum up, there is truth in what you and I say (I have blogged my 'negative ' experiences here for two years but am currently on sabbatical) and there is also truth in what some of the 'positive' bloggers say. We all have valid experiences and feelings and I'm sure you must have had some people say that they relate to your experience. I certainly do. All the best.


Mickyfinn said:
20 October 2014 @ 14:14

Actually you have a fundamental right to write whatever you feel about the place in which you live. Ignore the trolls who believe otherwise. I'm on your side and you write well.

I have lived in Spain and France for close on 35 years so know a thing or three about both countries. Spain has never really functioned like main stream wealthier states such as France or Germany. Mainly that's more down to the culture than money.

For the Spanish the way society functions is not very close to the top of their agendas. Environment concerns or animal welfare are two other issues we foreigners think are important. The Spanish are principally concerned with their families and how much cash lies in their pocket matters most. They have very short tern ideals. Wider issues are always someone else's problem.

The political class are focused on preserving themselves and enriching their own back accounts. They see that as the whole purpose of politics and putting up with the negatives of the job.

Spain is a developing country. Franco held it back for over 40 years and to catch up takes time. Probably more time is needed than elsewhere because of the way Spain works. The recession has put it back 10 more years.

So we who live here have to learn patience. Understand everything is different and respect that difference as a positive.
If you cannot then leave because you will never be content in Spain.



Hephaestus said:
21 October 2014 @ 13:16

Your experiences are currently very topical, I have clashed with forum trolls/keyboard warriors, but what I fail to comprehend is why forum administrators/mods appear to take the side of the oppressor than that of the oppressed.

If it helps I always imagine my forum attackers as being serial losers, sad little loners who wouldn't say boo to a goose in the real world. The UK's proposed ott 2 years imprisonment for the worst offenders is stupid to say the least, the obnoxious serial troller of Kate and Gerry McCann actually killed herself after being named and shamed, which IMHO is the way to go if possible, I'm not advocating suicides, but that's their choice at the end of day.

I recently quit a forum after being singled out for treatment from the resident troll, it transpired that he was also the forum owner and moderator with three user names, how sad is that?

When you look beyond the sea, sun and San Miguel Spain has horrendous problems, IMHO brought on by EU membership and a government that is not fit for purpose, but having said that, were the Blair/Brown years reality or just a bad dream?




Joan Fallon said:
21 October 2014 @ 17:57

I wouldn't give it another minute's thought, if I were you. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I too live in Spain and although I always try to see the positive side of life here - and there are many wonderful things about this country - politics is not one of them. Spain has endured quite a few years now of high unemployment (I live in Andalusia where 50% of young people are without work) and major cutbacks and there seems to be no end in sight. Yet at the same time the country does nothing to get rid of the corrupt politicians. Sadly no matter how many pieces of paper you have you cannot vote to change anything.
Don't give up blogging about what you think is right.



Mickyfinn said:
21 October 2014 @ 19:24

One of the principal political problems in Spain and the reason nothing meaningful is done about corruption is party allegiance.

It's a bit like a spiders web. One thread leads to a dozen more. Expose one and the entire local or national party risks trouble.

Currently in China the president is running a campaign against corrupt officials. That could not happen in Spain because it would lead to the very top of government.

Back scratching in Spain is an integral part of the culture. It's just the way it's always been.


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